Fly Fishing in Franklin North Carolina

fly fishing in Franklin North Carolina

Fly fishing in Franklin North Carolina

In this article I will thoroughly cover fly fishing in Franklin, North Carolina. Franklin is a small town of 5000 or so full time residents. It is southwest of Asheville in the very corner of the state. It offers anglers a wide variety of fly fishing opportunities. Many anglers come for the trout fishing, but there are plenty of other species to catch as well.

Franklin has some good fly fishing in or close to town. However, it is also an excellent base of operation. There are a bunch of spots within an hour of Franklin that anglers can easily fish in a day. These include two famous rivers, the Tuckasegee and Nantahala. Both offer excellent trout fishing and the Tuck has smallmouth bass.

golden trout

read my article on trout fishing in Franklin, North Carolina

Fly fishing tackle and techniques

I use a 4wt rod with a floating line for the majority of my fly fishing in Franklin. Most of the fish I catch are of modest size, the light rod is easy to cast and even small fish put up a decent battle. It is fine for catching trout in streams, smallmouth in the Little Tennessee River, and panfish. Anglers fishing the Tuck more often can certainly go up to a 5wt or 6wt. I do use an 8wt for casting big popping bugs for bass, those flies are very bulky and it takes a bit more rod to muscle bass out of heavy cover.

rainbow trout

Flies will vary a lot based on time of year and conditions. Top dry flies include yellow Sally’s, parachute Adams, elk hair caddis, and chubby Chernobly. I start with a 5x leader and go lighter if the water is clear and the trout a bit spooky. Streamers work the entire water column. For trout, I like Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnows, Sculpzilla, mini sex dragon, and Dali Lama.

click link to see North Carolina trout fishing designations and regulations

Nymphs are usually fished on or near the bottom. They can be free drifted, fished under a dry, or under a strike indicator. They probably catch more fish that the other flies. Top patterns include soft hackle pheasant tail, Walt’s worm, Duracell jig nymph, and English pheasant tail. Fish Tales Outfitter in Franklin is a great resource for stream conditions and fly recommendations.

fishing little Tennessee River

Fly fishing Franklin North Carolina

Anglers fly fishing in Franklin have a variety of options available. The Little Tennessee River flows right through town. It offers anglers the chance to catch smallmouth bass, panfish, and even trout. Cartoogechaye Creek is a nice little stream close to town, it is heavily stocked with trout. The Cullasaja River is just a few minutes away. Burningtown Creek is a quaint little stream that is stocked and does not get a lot of pressure.

fly fishing the Little Tennessee River

smallmouth bass fishing in Franklin North Carolina

The Little Tennessee River starts in north Georgia and flows through Franklin on it’s way to Lake Fontana. Most of the fly fishing takes place between the dam and The lake. This is ideal smallmouth bass habitat. There are sunfish, rock bass, largemouth bass, and crappie as well. The section from the dam to Tellico Bridge is best floated. The water is slower with riffles and deep pools. There is some access, bit not a ton. Smoky Mountain Outfitters has some private land making for convenient floats.

map showing access to the Little Tennessee River

The section from Tellico Bridge to Lake Fontana is excellent wading water. The river is much wider with plenty of access via Needmore Road. There are several spots to put in rafts and kayaks to do a float. There are a few trout in here along with good populations of smallmouth bass, panfish, and redhorse.

fishing for sunfish in Franklin

The river upstream from the dam forms Lake Emory. This is typical river lake style fishing. The river does get muddy easily from heavy rains, best to go someplace else when the water is high and muddy. The Lake Emory portion of the river offers excellent fishing for panfish in summer, a good option when trout fishing is slow.

I like to start fishing the river with a #6 white popper. This will catch every species, including larger panfish. If it does not produce, I will go to a chartreuse over white #4 Clouser or a #6 black wooly bugger. These are my basic flies for the river. I usually fish a 4wt with a floating line, but anything between 3wt and 7wt will work fine.

Cullasaja River

The Cullasaja River begins in Highlands and flows through gorgeous country to the Little Tennesse River. In it’s upper reaches, it is a classic trout stream. There is excellent access off of Highlands Road, which parallels the stream. Dry flies and nymphs both work well. Like most trout fishing, the harder an angler works to get to a spot, the better it will probably be. It is stocked well, but there are plenty of native trout in the river and feeder creeks.

fishing Cartoogechaye Creek

As it gets closer to Franklin, the river flattens out and slows down. It is still pretty water, just more development. This stretch is stocked fairly heavily and is very easy to fish. There are some smallmouth bass and panfish as well. A black wooly bugger or Pat’s Rubber Leg is tough to beat. It is very accessible off of River Road.

Cartoogechaye Creek

Cartoogechaye Creek starts a few miles west of Franklin and flows into the Little Tennessee River. It is well stocked with trout. There is good access at Parker Meadows Complex, Industrial Park Rd, and Macon County Recreation Park. Yellow Sally dry flies produce, as does popular nymphs. This is “urban” fishing to some degree, but it is fun, easy fishing close to home.

fishing in Franklin North Carolina

Burningtown Creek

This is a pretty little stream northwest of Franklin, 20 minutes or so out. It gets stocked heavily considering it’s size and does not get a ton of pressure. It is accessible off of Burningtown Rd. It is stocked from Burningtown all the way down to the Little Tennessee River. Classic small stream flies work well.

Fly fishing waters near Franklin, North Carolina

There are some terrific fly fishing waters within an hour of Franklin. These include The Tuckasegee River, Nantahala River, Fires Creek, Cherokee, and Scott Creek.

Tuckasegee River

The Tuckasegee River, known locally as “the Tuck”, this is a renowned trout river. It is very heavily stocked from Cullowhee to Bryson City. There are several Delayed Harvest sections which offer practically guaranteed action unless conditions are terrible. The section near Webster is terrific and only 20 minutes from Franklin, with good access off of River Rd and South River Rd. Further down river, SR 74 parallels the river. Bryson City has some great access as well, including a Delayed Harvest section.

fishing Tuckasegee River

Anglers can wade or float the Tuck from Cullowhee to Dillsboro. However, care needs to be taken when wading, it is a larger, fast moving river. There are some bigger trout as well, so I like to bump up to a 5wt or a 6wt outfit with a floating line. Top flies vary, best to check with local shops.

Nantahala River

The Nantahala River is a gorgeous trout stream! It flows south to north and is an hour or so away, depending on which section is fished. The portion above Nantahala Lake is a small, technical stream. There is not a lot of public access. The best spot is Standing Indian Campground off of highway 64. This section is not stocked and the fish are all native.

fly fishing Franklin

Below the dam, the Nantahala flows for several miles at a modest pace. The river is hatchery supported at this point. At the power station, water from the lake is added in from a long pipe. At this point, it becomes Delayed Harvest fishing. This is an unusual set-up for a tailwater fishery, where the water comes right through the dam. This portion of the river can go from docile to extreme white water quickly. Anglers wading need to be careful. A couple of outfitters have permits to run float trips.

Despite being remote, the Nantahala gets a lot of visitors, both anglers and recreational users. It is VERY busy in the summer and on weekends! The river is also very accessible from River Road and Wayah Rd, both of which parallel the river for miles with a lot of pull off for parking. The scenery is spectacular and the fishing very good.

brook trout in Franklin

Fires Creek

Fires Creek is a pretty little stream 45 minutes west of Franklin at Hayesville. It is easy to get to on nice paved roads. Most anglers drive up the the Fires Creek picnic area to park. Upstream of the foot bridge the creek is Delayed Harvest, below is Hatchery Supported. It has a nice remote feel but is easy to get to with excellent facilities.


Cherokee is an hour north of Franklin. It is operated by the Cherokee Nation. They stock the waters themselves. This includes the Oconaluftee River and Raven Fork along with a couple smaller creeks. In the Cherokee section, no NC license is needed, but a $10 daily permit is required. In the “Luftee” outside the reservation, regular rules apply. This area is a bit “touristy” for me, but it is convenient and easy fishing for anglers who want to catch a few fish. This is also the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Deep Creek is close by as well and is a really nice park with a pretty little trout stream.

Scott Creek

Scott Creek runs through Silva and Dillsboro before dumping into the Tuckasegee River. It is very convenient and accessible from several parks. Scott Creek is well stocked and is Hatchery Supported. It is a nice creek for anglers with only a couple hours to fish or while visiting Silva or Dillsboro.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing Franklin North Carolina will help anglers be more successful casting flies!


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